A significant stride towards enhancing Sunshine Coast’s response to housing and homelessness has been illustrated in the Sunshine Coast Housing and Homelessness Action Plan 2023.
This initiative by the council is a commitment to shape the future of the region’s housing and homelessness approach at a localised level, highlighted by five crucial pillars – delivery, facilitation, advocacy, capacity building, and knowledge building.
COUNCIL’S MAJOR PRIORITIES
The council’s agenda is dominated by some key priorities:
- Optimising Council Land and Buildings – The council aims to utilise its land and buildings to provide affordable residential housing options for key workers who are being displaced due to sky-rocketing rents and housing prices.
- Discounts for Community Organizations – The council is committed to offering discounted fees and concessions for community organizations.
- Backing Community-Led Initiatives – The council extends its support to initiatives led by the community.
- Facilitating State Government and Community Housing Providers – The council aims to facilitate the efforts of the State Government and community housing providers in delivering social and affordable housing projects.
A WORD FROM THE MAYOR
Mark Jamieson, the Mayor of Sunshine Coast Council, acknowledged the growing challenges of housing affordability and increased rates of homelessness in the region, akin to many regions in south-east Queensland and across Australia.
“Council recognises the housing crisis is a situation that is difficult to rectify swiftly,” said Mayor Jamieson.
He emphasized the need for a collaborative plan, which would involve all tiers of government – local, state, and federal – along with the private sector, including relevant industry associations, peak bodies, and community housing organizations, to effectively address the current situation.
THE ACTION PLAN
The Sunshine Coast Housing and Homelessness Action Plan 2023 aims to build on existing commitments and extend support to the community. It unveils new initiatives directed at achieving a more secure housing future for the community and outlines how the council can contribute to more diverse, affordable living outcomes and reduce the impacts and risk of homelessness in the region.
One notable delivery action announced by the Mayor is the council’s exploration of partnership delivery models to provide affordable and key worker housing through multi-dwelling units on council land.
“Preliminary project scopes have been prepared, and these projects are intended to be submitted to the State and Federal Governments as funding opportunities arise,” informed Mayor Jamieson.
The council has a history of supporting community-led initiatives on the Sunshine Coast such as Sleepbus, Roofs to Recovery, and a community-led initiative utilising vacant units for women’s transitional housing in Nambour.
Additionally, the council has invested in a web-based tool, the Housing Monitor, which provides statistics on housing affordability and availability. This tool exhibits the statistics in the form of tables and graphs, providing information for a range of Sunshine Coast geographies, households, and income types.
HOUSING STRESS ON THE SUNSHINE COAST
According to Community Portfolio Councillor David Law, currently, one in three mortgagees and almost half of all renters are experiencing housing stress. They are paying more than 30% of their gross income on mortgage or rental repayments.
“While Council cannot control all elements of housing in our region, it’s a high priority in our planning,” said Cr Law.
The council is working with the public, private, and community sectors to encourage the delivery of responsive housing and a variety of different housing types and costs in suitable locations to cater to households of all sizes and incomes.
The council has been actively advocating, planning, and facilitating housing and community support services consistently for several years.
“We are committed to working alongside all levels of government, industry, and businesses to take collaborative action,” shared Cr Law.
SPOTLIGHT ON BLUECHP
BlueCHP is an organization active on the Sunshine Coast, aiming to provide affordable and subsidized housing solutions to disadvantaged individuals and households experiencing housing stress. This includes key workers, seniors, and those at risk of homelessness in the community.
Darren Mew, BlueCHP’s Executive Manager, commended Sunshine Coast Council for its Housing and Homelessness Action Plan.
“The plan contains many practical initiatives including a focus on capturing local government’s investment, in perpetuity, through community housing providers,” said Mr. Mew.
He appreciated the local government’s proactive and ambitious strategies to accelerate affordable and social housing supply.
“BlueCHP is pleased to be actively working on the Sunshine Coast and across Queensland and we look forward to ongoing partnerships with Sunshine Coast Council,” declared Mr. Mew.
THE ROLE OF Q SHELTER
Q Shelter, for more than 35 years, has worked as a peak body to improve housing outcomes for Queenslanders. It works collaboratively to influence solutions to housing needs and homelessness.
Jackson Hills, Q Shelter Manager, recognised the commendable work of Sunshine Coast Council and sector partners to develop the first Housing and Homelessness Action Plan for the Local Government Area.
“With a backdrop of record high rents, record low availability, and an increasing number of individuals and families in housing stress or experiencing homelessness, there has never been a more important time to bring a spotlight to these issues at the local level,” expressed Mr. Hills.
The action plan goes beyond just highlighting the issues. It assigns a suite of actions and focus areas for solutions, ensuring the Sunshine Coast is well-positioned to take advantage of State and Federal Government funding coming online at present.
THE FIVE KEY ACTIVITIES
The action plan focuses on five key activities to improve the housing response at the local level:
- Delivery – by demonstrating and doing, including in partnership.
- Facilitation – by improving pathways and processes.
- Advocacy – by urging through engagement.
- Building Capacity – by strengthening relationships, skills, processes, and resources.
- Building our Knowledge – to gain information and strengthen understanding.
The action plan was endorsed at Council’s July 27 Ordinary Meeting. It can be viewed on the Council’s website.
SUNSHINE COAST COUNCIL: AT A GLANCE
The Sunshine Coast Council is making strides in various areas:
- It is investigating and scoping the development of dwelling houses and secondary dwellings on underutilized Council land, for temporary and or long-term use.
- The council is exploring delivery models to provide affordable and key worker housing (Multiple Dwelling units) on Council-controlled land assets.
- It applies a 100% general rate concession on land owned and directly used for a not-for-profit activity by community groups and not-for-profit organizations.
- The council has successfully advocated to the State Government for funding for an Assertive Outreach worker for people experiencing homelessness.
- It works with the Department of Housing on providing temporary or crisis accommodation for families or persons in need as identified from time to time by the department.
- The council provides financial support to the not-for-profit sector in the form of reduced development application fees, infrastructure charges rebate, and general rate concessions.
- The council has resolved to amend the fees associated with a permit for a temporary home under Council’s Local Laws.
- The main causes of homelessness include a lack of social and affordable housing, low rental vacancy rate, domestic and family violence, financial stress, and physical, mental health, and addiction.
- The number of people estimated to be experiencing homelessness has surged by 54% from 785 in 2016 to 1,205 in 2021 (ABS Census 2016 & 2021).
- The rental vacancy rate on the Sunshine Coast as of January 2023 was 1%, which is three to four times less than the rate considered suitable.
- The Sunshine Coast has a lower proportion of social housing (2% of total residential dwellings in June 2022) compared to 3.6% for SEQ and the state average 4.2%.
For more information, visit the Council’s website.